A name may be just a name but words matter. What we call ourselves reflects how we think about ourselves, how we communicate to others, where we focus energy and how we are held to account.
It’s my pleasure to announce that CYCJ’s name is changing and we are becoming the Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (remaining CYCJ for short).
This change in name reflects the fact that the terminology of ‘youth and criminal justice’ is outdated, these words focus on the system around the child rather than on children and young people’s lives and experiences. For a while we have been conscious that in reality there isn’t a clearly defined thing we can point to as the youth or criminal justice system. Instead children and young people in conflict with the law in Scotland come into contact with a range of people, services and organisations. Children and young people’s experiences are also not always reflective of justice in the true sense of the word, with children in need of love, care and support potentially held to account for their actions without recognition of their circumstances, needs or understanding. Therefore, a focus on justice as a concept rather than as a system is what is needed if we are to collectively make the scale of change needed to improve lives, communities and society (a change we set out in our report ‘Rights Respecting? Scotland’s approach to children in conflict with the law’.
In this name we also make it clear that our focus is on both children, recognising the distinct legal and developmental status of all those under 18 years of age, and on young people (those aged 18 to their mid 20s). This ‘young people’ group can get missed by both ‘child’ and ‘adults’ services and supports, and we recognise the need to pay them specific attention too due to their maturity and social developmental needs, as well as the need to ensure care and support continues smoothly from childhood to early adulthood; with this transition well documented as a potentially difficult process.
We hope this new name more clearly communicates that our purpose at CYCJ is about improving justice for and with children and young people. This is not just a name change but part of a wider strategy which recognises that in addition to the changes for others, we also need to change and do more to strengthen the participation of children, young people and their families in shaping and improving justice policy and practice. Therefore, CYCJ will be introducing ‘Participation and Engagement’ as a core strand of our work, in addition to practice and policy improvement, and research. Our ‘Participation and Engagement’ work will be about:
- seeking out, listening and amplifying the voices of justice-experienced children and young people
- supporting children and young people to participate in improving justice, in ways that are respectful and empowering
- supporting the workforce to listen and to be informed by the voices and experiences of justice-experienced children and young people
These changes are informed by, and are some of the ways in which we are keeping, the promise set out by the Independent Care Review. We hope that our new name will help hold us to account, inviting questions about the extent to which our work involves children and young people (as well as practitioners, policy makers and researchers). We recognise that we are on a journey and we need to learn, develop and grow if we are to live up to the name of the Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice. We are confident that over time we can do our name proud though, and look forward to hearing from you about what we need to do to ensure our actions always reflect our new name and are open to the challenge if and when we fall short of it.
For further information about our five year strategy and our nine priorities for 2020-2025 click here.